Blue Devils sophomore Hannah Peirce eludes a Sacred Heart opponent and sends the ball upfield. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In their second official field hockey match of the season, the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy Blue Devils were challenged with an overtime situation last Friday. They passed the test, as freshman Caroline Foley scored nine minutes into the sudden victory OT session for a 2-1 SCH victory over visiting Sacred Heart Academy.

Maggie Pearson, a senior co-captain along with goalkeeper Shannon McNally, scored in the middle of the first half, and Sacred Heart tied the contest in the second period.

Speaking of her captains, first-year head coach Emilee Ehret noted, “Shannon is obviously a stud goalie – she’ll be signing with Indiana – and Maggie is very steady at left back. She’s got great stick skills.”

Ehret and the other two members of the Blue Devils’ coaching staff are all 2013 graduates of Mount St. Joseph Academy, which traditionally has a strong field hockey program. Ehret went on to play for Penn State. Her older sister, Margaretha, played for Virginia and Penn, and currently coaches hockey and lacrosse at Merion Mercy Academy.

The other two SCH coaches are both graduates of Norwood-Fontbonne Academy as well as the Mount. Julia Mustin, the primary varsity assistant, played for St. Joseph’s University. Ann Burgoyne, who is piloting the JV team and also lending a hand with varsity, is Fairfield University’s all-time scoring leader in both goals and total points.

After several scrimmages, Ehret’s team opened up at the Hun School last Tuesday, winning 1-0 as Ainsley Rexford assisted fellow junior Ashley Lynch (another NFA grad) for the game’s lone goal.

“We’ve definitely grown since the first scrimmage and the girls are playing really well together,” the new SCH skipper said. “We’re happy with the direction we’re going.”

In last Friday’s home opener, Sacred Heart spent more time on the attack than the Blue Devils for about the first 10 minutes. The SCH offense ramped up after that, and back-to-back penalty corners yielded one shot by Lynch that was blocked by a defender.

A little over midway through the first half, the Blue Devils flooded into the Sacred Heart circle, and as the ball ping-ponged around, Pearson was able to get her stick on it and score with 13:07 left in the period. In the following minute the Lions called timeout to regroup, and the 1-0 tally was still on the scoreboard at halftime.

Early in the second half, SCH knocked the ball back and forth across the front of the visitors’ goal on one sequence, but it was Sacred Heart which would deposit the lone marker of the second half. After a Blue Devil corner yielded a shot that went wide to the left, the Lions came back upfield in transition and had Mary Lauren Franz tie the game with 22:55 left in the second stanza.

SCH’s new field hockey coaching staff is made up of 2013 graduates of Mount St. Joseph Academy. The head coach is Emilee Ehret (right), and the assistants are Ann Burgoyne (left) and Julia Mustin. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

The clock was just under the 20-minute mark when SCH drove the ball down toward the left post, and sophomore Hannah Pierce narrowly missed a tip-in. A corner soon followed, and sophomore Bella Tulio shot the ball from near the top of the circle, sending it a little outside the right post.
On two subsequent corners, SCH threatened but couldn’t secure a go-ahead goal.

The home team called timeout with 9:19 remaining, but neither team would score in the remainder of regulation play. After a Sacred Heart corner was foiled with 90 seconds left, the Lions came back into the circle and shot. McNally came up with a key save, one of seven on the day.

During the last minute, Blue Devils junior Polly Sweeney whacked the ball up the middle toward the Lions’ den, but Peirce was not quite able to get solid wood on the ball near the goal.

A 15-minute “sudden-victory” seven-on-seven overtime followed, with the Blue Devils sending out McNally and field players Foley, Lynch, Peirce, Rexford, Tulio and junior Charlotte Stahlecker.

After an SCH corner did not produce a viable shot, the clock dipped under nine minutes remaining. In short order, first Sacred Heart and then SCH was slapped with a penalty card and had to send a player off the field. The outcome was not affected by these developments, as both teams were back at full strength with 6:05 to go and the score still tied.

After this, though, SCH attacked immediately. Rexford slipped a pass to the young Foley, who dribbled in and scored the game-winner with 5:57 left in the overtime period.

Foley is one of two freshmen who have made the varsity roster this fall; the other is Kaitlyn Melinson. Both girls previously attended Wyncote’s Ancillae Assumpta Academy, with Foley coming over to SCH as an eighth grader and Melinson joining her this year.

After her team won the extended contest on Saturday, Ehret said, “We’re working on being fit, and I think our fitness showed during overtime today.”

At one point in the OT, a Sacred Heart player tried to stage a breakaway, only to find that the only players around her as she neared the circle were five Blue Devils who had raced back to defend.

One shortcoming of the SCH program in the past has been a dearth of athletes who play field hockey outside of school. McNally is a longtime member of the W.C. Eagles club program, but most of the girls on the 2018 varsity were primarily lacrosse players. A few members of this year’s team have expressed interest in club hockey, and in the offseason, Ehret herself will be working with the Mayhem, a 4-year-old club based on the Main Line.

She said she’s received a few words of advice from her older sister, a more experienced coach of high school athletes.

The SCH mentor recalled, “She just told me to keep the players fit, and she said to go with my gut when I make decisions, because I have good instincts.”